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The Heart Shuffle ♥

The Human Heart is our natural metronome. It kicks like a bass drum anywhere from 60-80 beats per minute. In Italian, this tempo is called larghetto. It is no coincidence that the moderate rock tempo (120 bpm) -- the cut-time of our heartbeat -- is the standard tempo for Pop Music. The pitch of our hearts is quite low, and occupies the lower registers on a 4-string bass guitar. Thus, the ‘feel’ of a piece of music, is strongly dictated by the bass and drums -- the riddim, as the rastas call it. The riddim is the heart of music.


Drag over the noteheads or push play to loop.
The heartbeat is a kind of shuffle beat composed of the two basic heart sounds -- S1 and S2, or “lub” and “dubb” -- separated by cardiac rests. In poetry, this beat is called an “iamb” as in the Shakespeare line:

A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!

Trying tapping the above line out with your hands while saying it in time with your heartbeat. Iambs were used in ancient Greece for a satirical form of verse. The mocking quality of the heartbeat is seen today in kid songs parodying Ring Around the Rosie.

In locomotion, the heartbeat expresses itself as skipping. Children love to skip, and like myself, often can’t help tapping beats out on their environment.

Our love of 60 b/p/m iambic shuffle music and poetry is shaped during our time in the womb, while listening to the constant pulse of our mothers’ biomusic. The loudest sounds a fetus hears are her heartbeat -- the four sounds of the heart (in waltzes and gallops) -- the bruits of the blood, nerve noise, and all the sounds of the social environment filtered in through the subwoofer of her womb. This intrauterine soundtrack is like listening to riddim underwater -- big bassy waves and strong pulsing rhythms.

So what to play for your newborn’s First Sound? We know babies like Major, bass and drum music, at Moderate rock tempos. Should the First Sound include the froufrou of a scrub’s shoes? The syncopated applause of family? Or a 4/4 Lamaze beat -- a natural extension of mom’s 60 bpm heartbeat -- jammed out upon delivery by the Hospital House Band? Or should, as William Burroughs suggests, the newborn be treated to silence as her First Sound?

Of course, it you want to sever the child’s sonic umbilicus right away, have the doctors play your newborn some Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Comments are always welcome. It’s easy and anonymous.
Love, Homey

♥ These are my Heart Sounds…